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Libretto

copyright 2001, by Ruth

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Rinaldo Pazzi and Allegra (Laura) Pazzi were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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Allegra Pazzi awoke with a jolt, bolting upright. She had no idea where she was - in fact, Allegra had no memory of anything after she went for her walk the afternoon before.

Glancing around, she found she was lying on a cot in a dark bedroom. A window was to her right - closed, with the curtains drawn. Only a soft lamplight on the nightstand beside her illuminated the room. A strong smell lingered in her nose, and somewhat suspicious, Allegra slowly brought her right arm up to her head and rubbed it - she felt groggy. Thankfully, the scent tapered off and she felt somewhat more attentive.

When she was more clear-headed, suddenly a thought came to mind. As if it were a sixth sense that she feared she might have been robbed, Allegra quickly checked her ears for her ruby earrings and glanced over her hands for the rest of her jewelry.

Intact. Buona. Now, for the rest of me.

She glanced down at her slender body and noticed that everything on her person had been left as it was - her small black dress and matching pumps. She turned her head to find her leather Gucci purse sitting on the nightstand. Allegra reached for it and brought it to her lap - again, nothing had been disturbed. Allegra was pleased to know that everything was still with her, and she smiled. Even on her walks, she refused to wear anything less than elegant.

Putting the purse on her shoulder, Allegra swung her legs over the side of the bed and tested the floor. Soft carpet greeted her pumps, and she leaned over to see if it was possible to put weight on her legs. Allegra slowly stood and did not falter - years of wearing only the finest in high heels had taught her poise and balance.

She did, however, jump with a start when the door to her left opened and a dark, lithe figure stood in the doorway, silhouetted by a yellow light.

"Signora Pazzi," the familiar, metallic voice said.

Allegra lowered her brow, and volunteered, "Dottor Fell?"

The figure stepped forward, light coming onto its features, and she could see it was definitely the curator of the Palazzo Capponi, his aubergine eyes illuminated by the light behind her. He wore a black dress suit with a red tie, which only helped his maroon eyes further shine.

Dr. Fell walked towards her slowly, and when he reached her took her hands comfortingly in his. "You were very nearly hurt in that accident yesterday afternoon, Signora. You've been asleep for over a day."

Laura's brow lowered again. "Accident?" she said quizzically. "I don't remember any accident…"

"While you were out walking," Dr. Fell said helpfully. "You were almost hit by a car, but I stopped it before it could reach you. You fainted, so I brought you here."

Him, coming to her rescue? Allegra internally swooned. She had met this man at La Vita Nuova only two nights before, and had been instantly taken with his intelligence and charm during their brief discussion of Dante. Only the nagging presence of her husband had spoiled it for her.

"You brought me here, Dottore?"

Dr. Fell let go of her hands and did a curious thing. He tilted his head downwards and smiled at her, a somewhat devious smile.

"There was no need for hospitalization, Signora, only rest. Unfortunately, I never caught your address before you fainted into my arms, so I brought you to my humble abode." He grinned, his small white teeth bared. "I hope you don't mind," he said, his voice teasing.

Just as she smiled coyly, the scent of cooked food from outside the room caught Allegra's nose. Instantly she was hungry. As much as Allegra kept herself from eating - she was always on a strict diet - the scent was starting to get to her. She must've not eaten in a day, since the accident.

Doctor Fell walked towards the door and turned back to face her when she asked, "Ehmm… Dottore? What is that marvelous smell?"

"I was hoping you'd ask," he said, and his face was again twisted into that devious smile. "I was just finishing my meal when I decided to come check on you. Although I have now lost my appetite, I'm sure yours is becoming quite overwhelming." Doctor Fell extended his hand to her. "Would you join me, Allegra, if I might call you that?"

She slowly walked towards him and took his hand. "Si, and with pleasure, Dottore," she said properly, and followed him out the door of the room.

~~~

The dining room was large and quite dark, with only a candelabra in the middle of the dining table providing light. Looking around was useless, as all except the table and its occupants was pitch black. The mahogany dining table was long and Allegra sat at one end. Dr. Fell had graciously poured her a glass of Batard-Montrachet and set out a salad on her plate while preparing the main course.

"What are we having?" asked Allegra, picking at her salad. In front of her sat a copper sautéing pan, obviously hot and ready to cook whatever the Dottore was preparing. She could smell hot butter and the thought of food excited her.

From behind the sautéing pan Dr. Fell clasped a small piece of meat with some cooking tongs. Allegra scrutinized it carefully and thought for a moment that it looked to be a very strange piece of meat - as if it didn't look right by itself somehow. Her doubts soon subsided as the Dottore placed two or three of the pieces in the hot sautéing dish, the sizzles and hisses and the scent of the cooking meat overwhelming her.

Allegra glanced at the Dottore, who was taking great care with her food. The way he cooked the food so… intimately… was starting to fascinate her. He seemed like a man who took great care, a man with very skilled hands and a very skilled mind.

Immediately Allegra's hunger for food depleted and her hunger for the Dottore rose.

Soon, the cooking was finished and the Dottore slowly placed a few pieces of the warm, freshly cooked meat on her plate.

She looked up at him, and he smiled that smile down at her. "Bon appetit, Signora," he said. Then, he walked to the other end of the table and sat down, directly opposite her, and poured himself a glass of Batard-Montrachet.

"Are you… sure you won't have any?" Allegra asked him. "I don't want to impose, Dottore…"

"As I said, Allegra, I have already had my meal for this evening," Dr. Fell replied, that steely gaze of his melting her. "This meal is just for you. Please, indulge yourself. You need your strength."

Allegra hesitantly went ahead, cutting the soft meat with her knife and placing a small portion of it in her mouth. It had a tender consistency and tasted not at all unlike a piece of steak or pork. Not that Allegra had eaten either in several years.

"This is… healthy food, Dottore?" Allegra asked, concerned.

Dr. Fell grinned. "Quite lean, in fact."

Allegra took yet another bite, and found it to be quite pleasing to the tongue. "Squisito, Dottore! What is it?"

Yet again, that devious little smile that bore his small white teeth. "You never ask. It spoils the surprise."

Allegra coyly smiled back at him and after a few more bites, put down her fork. "You are an excellent cook, Dottor Fell."

"Please… call me Edward," he said chivalrously across the table, sipping from his goblet.

She nodded obediently, and he continued. "Your husband was quite dedicated to his work, Allegra. You must've been quite proud of him."

Allegra smirked quizzically and said, "'Was'? He is dedicated to his work." She sighed disdainfully. "Mmm. Too much, he works all the time. Doesn't spend enough time at home." She picked at a piece of lettuce and explained, "It's always the office, keeping him away. Sometimes I wish he would quit."

"Ah, but then you wouldn't be able to afford those fine things you're wearing," Dr. Fell pointed out, indicating her case. "Those exquisite ruby earrings, for instance…"

Allegra reached her hands up to her ears and grazed the fine rubies. "Mmm. I see your point. Still, these are nothing compared to the diamond he gave me on our first anniversary." Allegra held out her left hand for him to see, displaying it flirtatiously.

Dr. Fell leaned forward as to examine the diamond, glancing at it and then up at her proud face. He smiled that mysterious smile and said, "Well, that's something. I must have overlooked it at the opera."

Usually, any man who received that seductive glance from her would practically fall apart before her very eyes - Allegra was aware of her beauty, and not ashamed. There was something mysterious about him then and now that she found incredibly seductive. But this man was so different from when he was at the opera - so reserved. He had practically swept her into his arms before her husband, and now he was playing games.

Demurely, she picked up her goblet and sipped from it. Allegra loved a good game of hard to get, and Dottore Fell seemed to be a worthy opponent.

"Ahh, yes, the opera. Mmm," Allegra said, sighing. "I adore Dante, Dottore. I must say our little chat was quite refreshing after the performance."

"Your husband seemed as riveted in the libretto as you at one point," Dr. Fell mentioned to her, sipping from his goblet.

"Well… Rinaldo doesn't follow opera like I do," she replied haughtily. "I'd be surprised if he even knew who the characters are. He doesn't follow Dante, either."

Dr. Fell let a disappointed expression appear for a moment and said, "Ahh, that's awfully too bad. Though, one does not need to know the characters in order to feel the same love that Dante had for his Beatrice. I'm sure he felt that for you."

Why is he talking in the past tense? Maybe he just means the opera, Allegra thought to herself. Still, his comment was a compliment of the highest sense, and she smiled greatly.

"Well, I wouldn't say that… but thank you," Allegra said. "Rinaldo loves me, but I doubt that much… not as much as Dante to Beatrice, Dottore."

Dr. Fell sat up straight and looked deeply at her, "Any man would be a fool not to feel that for you, Allegra."

She blushed slightly, but not in an embarrassed way. She did find Dr. Fell quite attractive, and had let him know that at the opera through her words and gestures - he was obviously aware, and reciprocating now. And after he had rescued her from that accident, she saw no reason not to press on.

Well, there was one reason. But was he ever around?

"Dottore-"

"Edward."

"Edward…" Allegra began seductively, shifting in her chair and crossing her legs, "Are you making a pass at a married woman?"

Dr. Fell cocked his head and looked at her with those stunning, penetrating eyes. A look of mock offense glided over his face. "Signora Pazzi, I would never think to do such a thing, especially not during one's grieving period."

The flirty smile Allegra wore vanished and was replaced with a perplexed one. "What?"

"Oh, surely you must find the idea of a man preying on the tender emotions of a newly widowed woman to be thoroughly repulsive, Signora," said Fell. "In fact, your flirtatious reactions are quite offensive to your late husband's memory."

Dr. Fell lowered his brow, then smiled and said quickly, "But that's your reaction to the ordeal, most likely. The effects of shock vary from person to person, you know."

Allegra's mind was racing. Newly widowed woman? Late husband's memory?

"Dottor Fell…" she began, her eyes searching his face.

His smile fell, and for an instant Allegra saw a glimmer of pure evil in his eyes. The new expression was one of mock sorrow.

"Oh. You haven't yet heard the news. Forgive me, Signora."

~~~

As Allegra sat in shock, Fell picked up something from the table - a remote control. He clicked it in the air, and a large white screen illuminated on the wall behind him. A news program began to play.

"Late last night, the body of Rinaldo Pazzi, Chief Inspector of the Questura, was hung from the window of the Palazzo Vecchio. His neck was broken from the fall, and apparently his intestines were cut from his abdomen…"

Allegra watched the screen as a camera from below captured a grisly sight - A man, hanging from a window by a noose, his… bowels… hanging from the pit of his stomach. The camera slowly zoomed in on the taped face of the still swinging body.

Rinaldo.

Allegra was too shocked to move or talk. Faintly, the voice of the newscaster sounded in her pounding ears.

"…this man, the current curator of the Palazzo Capponi, a Dottor Edward Fell…"

Flash to a picture of Fell at the opera.

"… believed to be the infamous serial killer, Dottor Hannibal Lecter, who cannibalized his…"

Flash to a photograph of Lecter in his cell, the sketch of the Duomo seen from the Belvedere on the wall behind him. He looks not unlike Dr. Fell.

"… escaped from Memphis, Tennessee in the United States. He is now on the American FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted criminals list. Please do not approach…"

Allegra swallowed hard, turning her gaze back to Fell who sat in front of her. He leaned forward with his elbow on the table, his aubergine eyes gleaming and the grin upon his face. Allegra shivered, and a tear rolled down her cheek.

She opened her mouth to speak, but only a whimper came out.

"What are you?"

Fell stood up slowly, walking towards her where he stood before.

"Back to our earlier discussion of Dante, Signora," Fell said, "as you and your husband playing the parts of Beatrice and the poet himself, respectively… I'm suddenly reminded of the libretto of the opera we so fondly recited:

"He woke her then, and trembling and obedient, she ate that burning heart…"

Allegra's stomach turned.

"… out of his hand…"

Behind him, the newscaster began to speak again. Allegra barely heard it under the pounding in her ears.

"… Earlier today, the body of the Commendatore was found savaged at the morgue, with several internal organs missing, most notably…"

Allegra shook so hard it hurt, and taking her eyes away from the screen, she glanced down at the delicious meal he had prepared for her.

"She ate that burning heart…" Fell's metallic rasp sounded in her mind.

A cold grin from him was all she needed to finally realize what she had done. What she had ingested.

Whom she had ingested.

Quickly she brought her fingers to her mouth, probing her throat, the forced heaves racking her body. Sobs of anguish, pain, and disgust escaped her lips as she feverishly gagged herself to no avail.

"Here, let me help you with that," Fell said to her quickly. In moments, the steel in his voice was replaced with the steel in his hand. The harpy tore at her throat, emptying blood and heart alike.

Allegra clutched wildly at her throat, her body involuntarily jerking as she wheezed for breath and sobbed silent tears. The mocking, cold face of Dr. Fell invaded her eyes and slowly drifted away as he seemed to be moving back, back into the darkness and shadows of the room.

Allegra, breathing her last breaths, choking on her own blood and still gasping for air, gazed upon the screen before her one last time. The merciless click of the remote sounded, and that was the last she saw of Fell, his arm raised in the air to summon the torturous picture of her husband, hanging and gutted from the Palazzo Vecchio.

Before she died, Allegra heard the familiar, metallic rasp filling the entire dark room with its sinister whisper, completing the verse.

"Weeping, I saw him then depart from me."

Another click, and the world went black.

Fin

copyright 2001, by Ruth

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